Small Ship Cruising

April 25, 2012


Anthony Nicolas on why small is sweet…

Smalll Ship Cruises - SeaDreamModern cruise ships seem to expand faster than the Chinese economy these days. With rock climbing walls, parks and multiple hot tubs and eateries, each new one seems to ram home the idea that ‘big is best’ with more force than a pneumatic pile driver, and even less subtlety.

Yet the small ships prove the truth that less is definitely more in terms of the value you get from a cruise. With far fewer passengers, you get an infinitely richer and more ritzy return for your hard earned cash and, more to the point, the chance to snuggle close up to the kind of peachy, picture perfect ports of call that those bigger floating theme parks cannot loom into.

Yes, there’s a real, rare intimacy about being on a smaller ship, but accessibility like this does not mean scaling down on luxury or personal space. The opposite is true; you almost always find bigger cabins and suites on the smaller ships, mostly with private balconies, and almost all so suffused with soft furnishings and smart hardware that they become real hazards to any kind of activity.

Less is more

Less is also more in terms of food and service. It is always much easier to prepare real, gourmet quality food for a select couple of hundred than it is on a floating mall carrying around five thousand. Choice and presentation on smaller ships massively overshadows the opposition. Small is chic, and impossible to beat for style and quality.

And you still get all the good stuff. There will be gaming, a couple of lounges and indoor/outdoor bars. Sure, it will be lower key, but if you can live without bingo and hip hop, then your ship has surely come in.

If you still doubt me, might I suggest champagne in the hot tub at midnight as you swing idly at anchor in the starlit bay of summertime Saint Tropez, or merely mull over a martini on some moonlit terrace deck in Antigua?

If the ships are small, then the options truly are enormous. Short on crowds but high on style, space and sheer fun, a small ship will spoil you in ways that a floating Babylon never could. Why become one of a crowd when you can leave the crowds behind altogether?

At the end of the day, that’s what a real break from normality is all about.

Do you agree with Anthony or do you prefer the facilities and buzz of large-ship cruising? Let us know your thoughts in the replies!

Read more: Small ship cruises

4 Responses to Small Ship Cruising

  1. Clive Harvey says:

    The smaller the ship the better in my opinion. P&O’s Aurora is probably the largest ship that I’ve sailed on (OK, so not at all large when compared alongside many) but she was way too large for my tastes and with far too many passengers.
    Ships like the now gone, Saga Rose were near perfect. There are still the likes of Minerva, Saga Ruby and her fleet mates, Discovery and others that I have yet to try: Deutschland for example. The best small ship experiences for me have been Sea Cloud, Hebridean Spirit and Regatta but she was quite big compared to those other two.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for your comments – I am of a very similar ilk, much preferring the atmosphere & camaraderie of a small ship for my cruises. No queuing, no strict dress & dining formalities, more varied ports of call – the way a holiday should be!

      Here’s some of my favourites – you might have heard of some of them, but if you haven’t just let me know and I can get more information for you!

      Saga – Quest for Adventure – This is the re-vamped Spirit of Adventure (and previous to that the Saga Pearl II) ship, last refurbished in 2010 and due to be deployed in early 2013, this is ideal for people looking for a holiday of discovery, education and enlightenment. With expert guest speakers delivering in-depth lectures & presentations, an abundantly stocked library (over 3400 books!) and interesting itineraries, you will be guaranteed to end the holdiday with a better knowledge of the destinations visited than a traditional cruise would offer. Comfort is not forfeited – accommodations are stylish and have modern facilities & offer 24 hour room service; there is an indoor pool, gym, spa and treatment rooms and dining is open in either the main dining room, Veranda buffet restaurant or al fresco on deck.

      SeaDream Yacht Club – For the more discerning client, this 6* fleet of two ships/yachts carrying just 100 guests each is a perfect choice. Offering and all-inclusive concept (meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, gratuities, low key entertainment and watersports), this product is ideal for a relaxing OR energetic holiday in and around the Mediterranean or Caribbean and in 2012/13 is also offering some stimulating Amazon itineraries.

      Compagnie Du Ponant – A French owned shipping line offering three ships for 2012/13; Le Ponant (64 guests) & sister-ships, Le Boreal & L’Austral (both carrying a maximum of 264 guests) also have a third ship (yet to be named) on order for next year. Again, focusing around the ‘private yacht’ concept, they visit many lesser known ports in destinations such as Antarctica, Middle East & Indian Ocean, Southern India & Asia and Canada & New England (amongst others), the passengers onboard do tend to be 90% French, however, all staff are multi-lingual and entertainment is none speaking (port lectures excluded). Dining is in one sitting and several informal bars and public areas contribute to the relaxed atmosphere onboard.

      Orion Expedition Cruises – This is definitely on my wish list – two ships, 100 guests each, visiting the most undiscovered places on the planet! Papua New Guinea & Micronesia, the Australian Kimberley’s, the New Zealand side of Antarctica and an amazing 40 night circumnavigation of Borneo. With their own zodiacs and expert naturalists onboard, there is no place they cannot get to (if it has a coast of course!). Completely informal and geared towards an educated and more mature clientele, you will enjoy stimulating conversation, informative lectures and real ‘hands on’ eco-friendly tourism (such as visits to local villages to see how the natives live and fully interact and learn about each other). Again, service, food and facilities are of exceptional standards, never losing sight that it is your holiday!

      – Gareth Harding, The Cruise Line

      • Clive Harvey says:

        I quite certain that Quest for Adventure ex Saga Pearl II was never named Spirit of Adventure. The ‘Spirit’ is the ex Berlin and ‘Quest’ was originally named Astor. I sailed on the second ship of that name, she was slightly larger and was lovely.
        I fear that I have to disagree with you regarding strict dress codes. I enjoy formal nights and I think that dress codes should be enforced. That is the only down-side to Oceania, their silly ‘country-club casual’ dress code.
        Yes, I am aware of the other companies and ships that you listed. However, the ship that has now rocketted to the top of my ‘must do’ list is Serenissima. She sailed until a couple of years back as Andrea and then her owners went bust. She has been bought and is being returned to service and I look forward to sailing on her. She is a ship that is very much in my style.

  2. For another great small-ship experience, albeit more yacht-like than cruise-like, you might like to consider Variety Cruises, who offer a wonderful range of voyages around the Aegean and eastern Med.

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